We Started a Run Challenge… It’s Been Going on for Over a Year!


O2X 1% Better Run Challenge 1-Year Update

May 1st, 2020. COVID was already in full swing. We were all facing lockdowns, uncertainty, remote work, closed gyms, canceled sports, etc.  The O2X Team put their heads together to answer the million dollar question: “How can we keep people motivated to workout through the pandemic?”

The answer? A run challenge.

The details:

Run a minimum of one mile, outside, every day. The last person standing wins. Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, 252 runners agreed, and signed up. It’s now one year later and there are still more than 60 people in, and going strong! All still competing for the grand prize, a pot of money just over $5100.

60 runners may sound like a lot, but they’ve outlasted over 190 runners, as the original pool closed out at 252 people. The contest has generated close to 50,000 miles run and just under 7.5 million calories burned (roughly 150 calories per mile). Since we just crossed the one-year mark, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with some of the runners still participating in the challenge. Here’s what they had to say:

The Runners

Lily Ford


Lily Ford: This challenge was something I heard about and quickly signed up for. It was an easy way for me to channel my competitiveness in a healthier manner and get myself outside every day, no matter what. I ran a mile in a hurricane, a snowstorm, the heat, the dark, and in seven different states. I forced friends and family to join, making those my favorite runs. What was a competition turned into something that was a daily habit, and it was nice to know I wasn’t doing it alone.

Paul LaRocca: I remember starting, and thinking to myself, “This is gonna be easy.” Well, throw in everyday life, mixed with riots and protests from May to November, 12-hour overnight tours, being dead ass tired, monsoons, blizzards, and below zero cold – it all came together to make me 1% better everyday. 

My son always made sure I did my mile, so did my dog Cooper. During my 1 mile quests, I learned about gratitude on my walks. I found 3 things to be grateful for everyday. 

To win the money and equipment is cool, but to know that I started this race with over 200 runners, and now be in the last 61 is an honor. I know everyone is facing their hardships, and whatever life decides to throw at them for the day. But knowing that they are pursuing their 1% better everyday, it pushes me forward. I’ve learned to apply the 1% to work, home, and just life in general. I wish we could all win; I know that there can only be 1 winner.

I know I won’t stop, and I expect the same. This is gonna be a long ass race. My calendar is set for it to end in 5 years. See you all at the finish line!

Aidan Gildea

Aidan Gildea: Signing up for the O2x run challenge, I never imagined I would still be going almost a year later. I started getting into running in college as a way to destress, so this has been a great way to keep a healthy routine. There have been many times though where running a mile is the last thing I want to do (not a fan of blizzard, strep throat, and near midnight runs), but I’m glad I’ve made it this far. Here’s to reaching one year!

Heather McGovern: The Runkeeper Challenge has made me 1% physically and mentally stronger everyday.  Prior to the Runkeeper Challenge, exercise was important, but the challenge has made it a priority.  I haven’t missed a day of cardio since I signed up for this challenge and I’m so grateful.  It has had a positive impact on both my physical and mental performance. No excuses!

Mikhael Tran

Mikhael Tran: I’ve really enjoyed this challenge over the last year. I’ve run some of my fastest miles, as well as my most painful and slowest miles.  As a new dad when this started, it was a much needed bonding time with my son. Most days I run the same route at home pushing him in the stroller— he’s done around 175 days so far!  The thing I am always working on is the right mindset. I always have to tell myself, “It’s 10 minutes OR LESS of your day! You’re only missing out once on 10 minutes of Instagram scrolling.” 

Zak Persing

Zak Persing: After the military I didn’t enjoy running; it felt like a chore. I decided to join the challenge with some coworkers for accountability. The first few runs weren’t great, but trying to get faster became an addiction. My mile time has significantly dropped ,and I have been enjoying longer runs. My favorite run was during a blizzard where it was a ghost town. I’m looking forward to the one year mark so I can check that off and keep moving!

Photo from Charlotte Abrecht.

Charlotte Abrecht: I joined the challenge never having considered myself a “runner,” so this challenge threw me outside of my comfort zone. It has been a perfect segue from my collegiate hockey career, where short sprints was the farthest I was expected to run. I’ve enjoyed adding running regularly to my exercise routine, and love how the challenge has held me accountable. An excellent bonus has been finding new running paths in nature!


Loy Donaldson:

Grant Parker:


Photo from Kayla Schmit.

Kayla Schmit: Prior to starting the run challenge, I definitely did not run on a daily basis. I’ve completed many races before from 5k to 1/2 marathons, but not as a competitive runner. Now over a year later, I can say that I’ve gone at least a mile each day. At this point, it’s part of my daily routine, and I don’t have to put much thought into it, I just do it. From running in the hot humid weather to running in the pouring rain and even snowy winter days, each day 1 mile was completed one way or another.

Tara Vonroth: Living the 1% mentality has helped me tremendously, even with a current injury. When I started, I was at an unhealthy weight, my VO2 Max was in the low 30s and my motivation was at an all time low. However, since committing to the challenge, I have been able to increase my VO2 Max to the 40s and have lost over 15 pounds. All due to a simple change in my mindset that was initiated by a $20 buy in for a daily 1 mile challenge. That $20 was the best investment as I have bought back time for myself. I have since incorporated HIIT workouts that were inspired by O2X’s Instagram workout posts and will keep being 1% better than I was the day before! 

Photo from Brent Vonroth.

Brent Vonroth: This challenge has allowed me to keep focus during a challenging time.  I believe in the 1% better philosophy and the 1 mile/day challenge allowed me to be that. Some days I had the energy to complete it and looked forward to it, and some days I dreaded it! Some days I was rocked by life tasks and had no interest in getting out and keeping myself 1% better, by completing a Mile.  That is when it was the most important. Those were the days I could have slipped and not continue to be 1% better, but I was, even though I cursed the whole way through the mile. When it ended, I felt great and knew why I am doing this!!!  I also feel it motivated/inspired others who were not in the challenge that are connected to me during my daily life, or they thought I am crazy for doing it!

It has been my family and fellow O2X runners who kept me going! This challenge sucks more mentally than physically, just carving out time to make sure you get it in is a challenge, especially outside. That is why I love it and hate it at the same time!  If I didn’t have the Challenge and have it remind me how to be 1% better, than I may not have made myself 1% better in other aspects of my “Life” where I made sure to keep focus during a trying time with the Covid Pandemic, and on top of that raising a family (Jenny, Tyler, Zoey, and Elia).  I am proud to say my son Tyler (14) and wife Jenny are still in the challenge.  As a father, I am proud to see my son doing the challenge during a time where these kids are lacking motivation with the Pandemic!

Thank you for what you guys do over at O2X for our first responders; they are an important asset to society! Keep up the great work. In a nutshell I love the challenge 99% of the time, but leave 1% to hate it!

Photo from Tyler Vonroth.

Tyler Vonroth: This challenge is fun, and I thought it was a great idea. What would be cool is if y’all do it again you bump it up to like 2 miles to make people drop out a little quicker, or something like that. Anything that would thin numbers quicker is a welcome addition in my opinion. Otherwise, pretty cool idea, very epic, and thanks for actually getting me up off my ass for at least one time out of the day.

Photo from Katherine Azzato.

Katherine Azzato: I have been participating in the 1 mile a day challenge, which began in May. I would like you to know the level of significance this challenge has had on my life in the past months. While some days were fast and others were a bit slower, the dedication of making it outside and allowing space for myself has helped me get through

 these isolating times. I have met neighbors, had talks with family that I would rarely call, and I have listened to books. Most of all I have made myself a better person. Thank you for inspiration. With a grateful heart.

Photo from Meg Walsh.

Meg Walsh: The O2X Mile Challenge has been a challenging, humbling, and rewarding experience! The most difficult part of the challenge was over the summer when I was ordered to work the Civil Unrest Protests. My days ranged from 12–16 hours and most of the time was spent standing on my feet.  It was difficult to find the motivation and the time to get a run in too.  Although I typically stick to the same couple of routes, I have had the privilege to run in 5 states.  My two Great Danes, Gus and Sage have been great running partners!

Photo from Laura Granahan.

Laura Granahan: I started the challenge a year and a half after my second hip replacement.  I waited years too long to replace my hips because life kept getting in the way.  As the years passed, I lost strength and mobility

that I thought I would never regain. I began the challenge along with a friend, not really expecting to stick with it.  But I have!  I love it because it is easy to work into my day and it has made a huge difference in my physicality.  Day by day and mile by mile I have gotten stronger without even thinking about it.  A year ago, I was completely unable to get myself into a yoga squat position.  Out of the blue one day this past winter I tried it when an underground pet fence installation person was demonstrating…I was with my 21 year old daughter…and we both gasped!  I could get myself into the position and could stand up out of the position all on my own!  I had not been training to perform this task, but the daily walking increased both my strength and flexibility.  I have a whole new lease on life!

Mark Lane: I have found inspiration, camaraderie, and clarity in the 1% Better Run Challenge. From a sunrise sprint with my dog or a barefoot jog on a beach, this challenge has become a launch pad for self-improvement often accompanied by reading or tactical breathing. It has been consistency in an ever-changing world and a nudge for additional personal challenges, like running 100 miles in one month. This experiment has paid more dividends than the cash pot alone could ever offer. I’m still looking for that runner’s high, but even as I seek it out my trail is already littered with rewards.

These people have absolutely no sign of stopping. Looks like we’ll have to catch up with the majority of these people on May 1st, 2022.